Animal Aircare opens state-of-the-art facility at London Heathrow


With over 25 years of experience specialising in the care of pets travelling by air, Animal Aircare is expanding its operations to allow it to continue its commitment to provide the best possible service to customers.

Animal Aircare prides itself on having rapid and efficient turnaround times, from receiving animals off the aircraft to completing health checks with the utmost care; aiming to reunite owners with their pets as soon as possible.

From the domestic house cat travelling on a family holiday to reptiles making their way to a new conservation, Animal Aircare’s team will handle and take care of animals that come through our doors, 24/7, 365 days a year.

Managing the Border Control Post at London Gatwick Airport, which incorporates the Animal Reception Centre, Animal Aircare recently marked the official opening of its new London Heathrow facility.

At London Gatwick Airport, Animal Aircare offers a temperature- controlled, safe and highly secure environment for the handling of animals travelling outbound and inbound, and for those in transit for an onward departure.

In the brand new facility at Heathrow, Animal Aircare provides a similar offering. The Heathrow site is equipped with temperature- controlled environments, alongside 48 spacious kennels and 22 catteries as well as isolation rooms for birds and reptiles, providing a safe and secure space for all animals whether they’re travelling inbound or in transit.

“Heathrow was always in the pipeline as it’s the UK’s biggest airport” Jake Holliday, Animal Aircare’s Heathrow Manager, said. “We’ve already partnered with the airlines at Gatwick, so it was a move that we knew was going to happen, as a lot of airlines were asking us to come over here.”

Welfare is key

Animal transportation isn’t just the usual type of cargo transportation. Carriers are moving pets that people see as a member of their family or rare species that require specialist handling. That’s why speed and care are the two top priorities for Animal Aircare.

“Animals are much more sensitive cargo than others that might be moved,” Holliday said. “It’s their precious pet, it’s their family member.”

With a facility that directly connects to airside, they are able to ensure that animals are delivered to them quickly, as the furthest stand is only 20 minutes away. After the animal arrives in their care, the first port of call is checking their welfare needs have been met and they are given food, water, and rest in a temperature-regulated environment.

To ensure the animal moves through the facility and back to their owners as swiftly as possible, the team gets to work immediately checking for injuries, ensuring the pet complies with local regulations and has the necessary vaccinations based on its country of origin and arrival.

“The main objective is to allow animals to travel freely throughout the UK but only if they’re compliant,” Holliday explained.

“Speed for a lot of reasons comes back to welfare. The quicker you get them out, the better for their welfare. They’ve been in quite a stressful environment on an aircraft, airfield, etc, so we aim to get animals out of here in four to six hours,” Holliday highlighted. “Our average time is about two hours and 20 minutes, so it’s really quick.”

READ: New animal reception centre to open at Heathrow

Unusual arrivals

As with any transportation expert that specialises in safely moving pets, the main animals to move through Animal Aircare’s facilities are cats and dogs. However, that doesn’t stop the occasional interesting species coming through their doors.

On Animal Aircare’s busiest day, including reptiles as individual animals, the company can find itself handling around 120 pets in a 24 hour period. Just purely handling reptiles, they can see around 450 individual pets moving through the building in a single day.

Whether its ferrets, birds, reptiles or, indeed, 240 venomous snakes that require specialist handling, Animal Aircare is dedicated to ensuring its staff receive the appropriate training to allow them to safely and securely facilitate the transportation of whatever pet their customers need.

“For us, it’s being able to offer niche experience in the area and making sure that, you know, owners feel at ease,” Holliday said. “We’ve got a vast, credible amount of experience to handle everything they send us.”

Further growth

Animal Aircare entered Heathrow just over 12 months ago, seeking to add to existing alternatives at the airport. “We are here to complement,” Holliday said. “Competition is fair, you know, it’s healthy as well at the end of the day.”

While the company’s new facility might have only just celebrated its official opening, Animal Aircare is already looking at the next step in the company’s expansion and evolution

“There’s lots more future plans as well. We’ve got Gatwick, we’ve got Heathrow and we’ve also got operations at London Luton,” Holliday added. “We’ll continue to open facilities across the UK over the next few years.”